Since NBC regained NHL rights in 2006, they’ve often shown Sunday games on broadcast NBC. They started by picking up regional telecasts in 2006-07, then moved to largely showing national exclusive games beginning in 2007-08. And that’s going to lead to an interesting twist in the 2021 season; while that season has been shortened to 56 games from the normal 82, broadcast NBC will carry 16 exclusive games, more than ever before. That was included in NBC’s release Tuesday on their exclusive-game schedule:
- Once a week – NBC Sports will showcase the NHL 16 times on NBC – once every week on average during the 2020-21 season – beginning Sunday, January 17, featuring the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s the most-ever NHL regular-season games on NBC.
- Fan-favorite rivalries – The NHL on NBC schedule features a number of rivalries, including a Valentine’s Day date between the Capitals and Penguins, plus Blackhawks-Red Wings, Bruins-Rangers, and Blues-Avalanche matchups.
- “Final flex Saturday” – the final game on the NHL on NBC schedule on Saturday, May 8, is currently TBD and will feature the most compelling game with playoff implications.
It’s rather remarkable to see a record level of NHL games on NBC’s broadcast network in a significantly-shortened season. But with that, it’s worth keeping in mind that many networks have less other programming in general at the moment thanks to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with that, though, this is quite a level of broadcast TV exposure for the NHL. Here’s the schedule so far:
NHL ON NBC 2020-21 SCHEDULE
|Sun., January 17||Washington||Pittsburgh|
|Sun., January 24||Detroit||Chicago|
|Sun., February 7||Philadelphia||Washington|
|Sun., February 14||Washington||Pittsburgh|
|Sat., February 20||Vegas||Colorado|
|Sun., February 21||Philadelphia||Boston|
|Sun., February 28||Boston||N.Y. Rangers|
|Sun., March 7||Buffalo||N.Y. Islanders|
|Sun., March 28||N.Y. Rangers||Washington|
|Sun., April 4||Detroit||Tampa Bay|
|Sat., April 17||Pittsburgh||Buffalo|
|Sun., April 18||Washington||Boston|
|Sat., April 24||Colorado||St. Louis|
|Sun., April 25||Boston||Pittsburgh|
|Sun., May 2||Tampa Bay||Detroit|
|Sat., May 8||TBD||TBD|
This is a significant level of broadcast-level exposure, which comes with around an extra 40 million homes or so of potential viewers versus NBCSN (based on 2020 Nielsen TV universe estimates of 121 million TV households to NBCSN’s reported carriage estimate of 79.9 million homes in January). And NBCSN will also be carrying a lot of Wednesday night and Sunday night games, as detailed in the NBC release. And that’s notable considering that the 2020-21 season is the last one under NBC’s current national TV contract. NBC will likely try to retain at least some rights in the next go-round, but there has been talk that ESPN or others could try and get some national games. But this winter and spring at least, NBC will be showing a lot of national NHL games.